by: Rev. Ed Schneider
The older I become, the more amazed I am by the increasing number of American pastors who are caught up in scandalous activity that not only ruins their opportunity to advance the Gospel of Jesus with any credibility but also tears apart a congregation of souls who entrusted their spiritual lives to these broken people.
With each minister who sinfully falls –– or should I say “crashes” –– under the weight of sin … it dramatically affects the general church’s ability to approach a searching world with any amount of sustainable authority and reasonable expectations of reputability.
I am not saying that all pastors will be perfect people. They are not. Certainly, I am not. However, we can no longer hide from the growing evidence that large segments of the Christian Church is in big trouble, and much of that “trouble” falls directly at the feet of those individuals who inhabit the pulpit.
Before we go any further, let’s make sure we have a common understanding of the term “sin.” Sin is one of those biblical words that can mean more than one particular thing. On one hand, there is the “overwhelming” nature or characteristic of human sin. It is our human character, part of our spiritual DNA, to fight against the ways of God. It is common for humans to both reach out to a divine answer to life itself as well as intentionally trying to separate themselves from the primordial call to be “connected” to the creator. That is the foundational nature of human sin.
On the other hand, there is a never-ending series of “actionable” sins that go about enhancing our nature to disclaim our connection to God. Unfortunately, the amount of these sins are so varied that it becomes arduous at best to list them all. The reason for this is because with each person there will arise negative opportunities throughout his or her life to continue prideful independence away from God while using actionable sins to promote the horrible hindrance of addictive behaviors.
These behaviors can be as simple as the idea firmly planted in someone’s brain that college football is the only thing truly important in life. It could be self-destructive behaviors, such as drinking, drugging or child abuse. It could be intentional laziness or self-validating pride that confuses the ability to attract and attach to the foundational importance of connecting to other people.
Remember, sin is anything that innately “separates” you from a connection with and the loving ways of God.
So, keeping this quick understanding of sin in mind, I want to severely chastise my brothers and sisters who are preaching and teaching God’s word on a regular basis. There are a few passages in the Bible that I want to share with you regarding the effect of “sinful separation,” and then I want to quickly get to the punch line.
The Bible states in Genesis 4:7: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Later, in Genesis 20:9, it states, “And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.”
Beloved, verily, verily I say unto you, if you, your congregation or your pastor is doing anything in any way that intentionally continues an environment of separation between God’s people, it is without exception completely sinful. Anything, in any way, that promotes the “disunity” of the body of believers is a horrible display of deceitful theology and the very essence of foundational heresy. Take a quick look at what the Bible clearly says about the subject.
Psalms 133:1: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
John 16:16: And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Romans 12:5: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
There is no more obvious sin than a pastor promoting DIS-unity among believers. God doesn’t care from what direction the separation comes; it is sinful. If you are a completely “white” church in a community that has black, red, blue, yellow or green people living there, also, and you haven’t made a concerted, ongoing and intentional effort to do whatever is necessary to include, empower and celebrate their connection with Christ …. shame on you!
If your church is all black or Hispanic or red-headed short people with three legs and have complained with passion about the separatist nature of the “other” church … and then refuse to correct the problem within your own local congregation … stop complaining! You are just as much a part of the problem and as guilty as they are.
It is thoroughly impossible for people to authentically call themselves Christians if they are intentionally separating themselves from other Christians, regardless of race, economics, education, social status, gender or any other temporary or earthly designation.
As Christians, we are not called to hope about unifying the body of Christ. We are called to accomplish it through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of the size or the budget of the church, we should not claim to be a healthy church setting if everyone looks, sounds, dresses, sings, prays or praises alike.
It is within the genius of God’s diversity that we find the greatest of his practical evidence regarding his glory on earth. As we gain a new identity IN CHRIST, we reaffirm each day our commitment to remove ourselves as the “primary” focus of life itself.
All pastors need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves two questions: “Am I part of the problem?” and “Have I helped to promote a sinful environment of separation within the congregation I serve and the community of believers?”